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Strengthening Secure Information Sharing Through Technology & Standards

2020-06-04 15:04
How data sharing, innovation, and regulatory standardization can make it easier for organizations to both contribute and consume critical threat intelligence.

In March, the US Cyberspace Solarium Commission report punctuated the urgent need for a stronger cybersecurity posture for our country and the private companies within. The report outlines more than 70 recommendations to help C-suite executives get up to speed on cybersecurity measures.

I believe one of the most important recommendations outlined in the report is the need for greater information sharing between security experts in order to help organizations counter new and emerging security challenges. The report also proposes the development of stronger standards and policies to ensure a stronger baseline security posture from organization to organization.

The report points out that information sharing represents a critical strategy to "strengthen and enforce cyber norms and to identify common intelligence gaps and areas of critical risk or vulnerability so that the intelligence community can provide focused and actionable intelligence." I would take that assertion one step further: Information sharing is the single most important tool to identify a vulnerability, attack, or disease outbreak that would most likely target multiple markets, such as finance, healthcare, government, and critical infrastructure.

For example, when a novel network anomaly is identified, determining how to contain it can take time, as there is no existing road map for doing so. One of the best ways to quickly mitigate potential risk in this situation is by gaining insight on information-sharing platforms from peers who have dealt with the same intrusion and can offer proven tactics to solve the problem.

However, the security and privacy defenses protecting today's modern information supply chain are woefully inadequate. Security questionnaires and Standard Information Gathering assessments do not prevent data breaches or data leakage. The risk of exposing their own security vulnerabilities, proprietary information, customer data, or other sensitive data outweighs the prospect of sharing critical insights. As a result, most organizations prefer to be consumers of information instead of contributors.

What's needed is a secure data-sharing strategy that allows organizations to share threat intel and aggregate analysis across multiple parties without revealing the underlying data values or violating the data privacy contract. The good news is that we are seeing greater availability of solutions that facilitate secure data sharing. Such tools mask a user's identity and protect sensitive data that could put organizations at a competitive disadvantage, expose security weaknesses, or divulge regulated information.

Implementing Standards and Regulations
While the momentum around secure data-sharing technology can further propel the practice of threat intel sharing, the practice could be even more effective with the assistance of regulatory standards. In fact, the US Cyberspace Solarium Commission suggests that the measures outlined in the report hedge on one key area: a commitment to strong encryption standards that support personal privacy.

Measures that require more stringent encryption capabilities can help alleviate some of the concerns that organizations have about information sharing, as it will require solutions to implement a privacy benchmark to better protect sensitive data. Such a standard would prove vitally important during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when healthcare organizations are sharing information across organizations and industries in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, identify outbreaks and research treatment, all while attempting to protect patient privacy.

The report also suggests movement for a federal data privacy standard and calls for a national data security and privacy law comparable to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. Such a regulation would also remove concerns around threat intel sharing by more stringently securing data in stores, such as in databases, and accelerating the adoption of technologies that aid in protecting sensitive consumer data.

To be effective, a national data security and privacy protection act should include the following measures:

  • A data privacy bureau that defines requirements and standards and liaises with businesses
  • A personal records opt-in mechanism that gives users methods to authorize sharing with entities
  • Financial penalties for noncompliance and data breaches as well as requirements for disclosure

Every organization has critical information that can help solve a greater security puzzle, but the potential consequences of sharing it represent a serious obstacle. It does not have to be that way. Secure data-sharing innovation and the implementation of standard regulations can alleviate the apprehension related to information sharing, so organizations can feel more comfortable being both contributors and consumers of threat intel information.

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